How close are we to living in ‘The Jetsons’? Checking in on our smart-home future
In the fall of 1962, The Jetsons debuted in primetime on ABC-TV as the network’s first show to be broadcasted in color. It was the height of the Space Race, and Americans eagerly tuned in for a tantalizing view of the future.
This particular future was Orbit City in the year 2062. The Jetsons were a nuclear family that lived, worked, and went to school in buildings high above the clouds. They commuted in flying cars, benefitted from abundant technology, and Rosie the robot did much of their housekeeping.
Despite an original run that lasted just one season and 24 episodes, The Jetsons became synonymous with ‘the future’. Now, nearly 56 years later, some of the technology dreamed up in the cartoon is more present than future.
Although we probably won’t see flying cars anytime soon, some technologies have become part of our daily lives, and others are in development and on their way to being commonplace by 2062.
Let’s look at some of the most iconic smart home technology from the world of the Jetson family and see how it compares to what we have today.
Video calling is one of the most easily recognizable technologies from The Jetsons because it’s already here. Some of us use Facetime, Skype, and other video calling platforms daily; in fact, we often use the technology in place of attending work meetings. We use it to check in with family and friends. And as more and more people ditch traditional landline phones, this trend will only continue.
If anything, The Jetsons underestimated the potential in this market. Most of their video phone equipment is a lot bulkier than the compact, hand-held devices we use today. And with all the advances in virtual and augmented reality, it’s possible that we could someday soon experience our phone calls in 3D.
The Jetson family enjoyed many time and labor-saving technologies — especially on the home front. Jane, the mother, merely touched a few buttons to deploy long robotic arms that washed and folded laundry to save hours of washing and cleaning. (Yet somehow, she still complained about doing housework). And while most domestic chores are still very hands-on in 2018, there’s at least one obvious device we have in common with the Jetsons: the robot vacuum.
Many have heard of robovacs like the Roomba, perhaps because of its high-profile cameos on the TV shows Breaking Bad and Parks and Recreation. Now there are many different brands on the market, and just like in The Jetsons, this battery powered vacuum can clean the floors and use its sensors to avoid furniture as well as steep drops.
Automatic Food Prep
In the cartoon, we oohed and awed at Jane Jetson’s ability to press a couple of buttons that automatically prepared a multi-course meal in a matter of seconds. In one episode, we see Jane push three or four buttons on a large square machine that shoots out cereal, milk, eggs, and toast for her son Elroy. What we don’t see is where the food is stored and how it gets prepared. We’d probably be pretty horrified by the preservatives and additives in the Jetson’s diet.
Of all Orbit City’s technologies, this one still feels the farthest away. In 2018 we certainly have some devices that eliminate time and labor in the kitchen, like smart coffee makers.
There are appliances out there that could soon replicate this technology, though not without preparation and planning. A product called Suvie promises to make an entire meal for a family. It resembles a toaster oven and has different trays for different cooking settings. You put food in in the morning, set it to cook, and come home at the end of the day with a three or four course meal. But the device hasn’t been released yet, and likely won’t become a standard product in the kitchen anytime soon.
Robots as Assistants
In the cartoon, Rosie, the Jetson’s walking, er, rolling, talking robot maid, handles all the chores that are too advanced for their push-button appliances. You know, like sweeping.
You can’t buy a Rosie in 2018, yet. But we do have voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, that use machine learning and voice recognition to help users accomplish tasks through their smartphones and other applications.
There are robots out there as well that might become part of the smart home experience someday. LG debuted several concept robots at the Consumer Electronic Show this year that serve food and carry baggages. Other companies are developing robotic technology for a whole host of different things.
If you combine this artificial intelligence with emerging mobile robotics technology and extrapolate 45 years of progress, you’ll see how the average home could have a Rosie-like robot assistant by 2062. Maybe.
Personal Care and Hygiene
Those of us who are slow movers in the morning appreciated the episode of The Jetsons where George is launched from his bed onto a conveyor belt, where robotic arms help him with dressing and grooming. This includes getting a vigorous tooth brushing from a faceless robotic arm protruding from the wall.
In some regards we are thankfully a long ways away from this lazy automation. However, today we have outsourced some of these tasks to technology. For example, electric toothbrushes are set for optimal brushing time and technique. There are even smart toilets available. Yep, smart toilets.
Orbit City wasn’t all it was cracked up to be
Despite the technology the creators dreamed up in The Jetsons, the future still had some of the same human experience themes we see in our lives today. George’s boss was a jerk, Elroy hated doing his homework, and the Jetson family often grew annoyed that the technology they had in place sometimes malfunctioned.
Whether or not we’ll actually see flying cars in our lifetime, one thing’s for certain: George, Jane, daughter Judy, Elroy, Astro the dog, and Rosie the Robot never knew how great they had it living in Orbit City.
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